Abolitionist and Teacher


Merlin and Polly Mead, with son Eddy Mead

Abolitionist Merlin Edward Mead (1794-1874), my fourth great grandfather, was a grandson of  Reverend Solomon Mead. He was born in South Salem, now Lewisboro, in Westchester County, New York. At age 17, he began teaching at the local school, while working on his father Clark Mead’s farm in the summers. On Nov. 14, 1820, Mead married Polly Clark of Waterbury CT. They moved to New York City, where he opened a night school, charging the low-income students, all boys, only for light and fuel.

In 1830, with Polly in poor health, they moved to Cadiz in Cattaraugus County in northern New York. Mead kept a tavern with his brother-in-law and taught at a small red school house.  He later moved to nearby Franklinville. Not far from the Canadian border, the region was active in the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, and the Mead’s house was known to be a part of it.  Here is a recent article written about Merlin Mead.In 1834, Mead was  listed as representative from Franklinville of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He was also the Franklinville justice of the peace in 1845 and town clerk in 1849. In the 1850 U.S. census, Mead describes himself as a farmer.

One of his sons, Aaron Benedict Mead, who had moved to Waterbury, fought in the Civil War for three years with Company A, Fourth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. He got pneumonia and was released.  He started in business in Chicago, where he became successful in real estate.  His company’s name was Mead & Coe. When Aaron made his first real estate deal, he sent his fee of $2 to Fisk University, the black university for freed slaves that had just started up.


family.merlin mead

Mead family gravestone, Mount Prospect Cemetery, Franklinville NY


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